Return to Paradise Valley

by marsha 2357

This writer wants all to know that this was my 2nd attempt at writing and it’s a kinda long story, so grab a drink and your imagination and I hope you enjoy!!!!

The sun was just starting to rise as a rider on horseback crossed a valley he'd been through many times before and as the sky turned a soft red and purple in color the rider heard a mourning dove cooing softly somewhere in the distance.The horse and rider had been up since long before sunrise and as the rider pondered his surroundings with tall grass and a field of flowers that colored the field before the rider he thought ahead and wondered. It had been about 6 months since he'd been this way and he wondered how the group in paradise valley fared.
Winter was on its way and he hoped the unseasoned group had already started preparing for the long cold months ahead.
He was headed this way not just to check on them but a certain school marm with crystal blue eyes that had been on his daily thought and throughout the past few months increasingly he wondered how she was and if she had managed to settle in and feel at home with the Mormons and their lifestyle.
The grass started to thin and the mountains in front of him appeared cold and aloof as they stretched upward and touched the sky. Only a few more miles and he'd know.

As morning broke over the mountains and a rooster crowed in the background the people of Paradise valley awoke and started to stir.The blacksmith opened his shop and the horses in their stalls stirred restlessly as he gave them their hay and feed. Down the street the storekeeper and his wife pregnant with their child started the process of opening their general store and as he opened the door to greet the day and stretch, he noted the rest of the town starting to come to life. The sheriff strolled up the street and gave him a wave as he passed down the street and somewhere in the background the smell of bacon cooking wafted down the street from a small restaurant.
The town was small and only a few buildings were prominent on the skyline but compared to how they'd started the population was growing and he could see that they had done well in their start in the middle of the prettiest valley around. They called it Paradise Valley and he agreed it was indeed heaven.
The ride the last five days had been wearing on Hayes Cooper and as he looked around the town he saw though it was small it was a start at a city, the livery stable to his left and the sheriffs dept. the blacksmiths, and the church at the end of the road all spoke of a small but viable population He continued to look around and the people either looked and waved or ignored him entirely and the children ran around the streets and pointed knowing he was a stranger but showing little fear.
He stopped his tired horse at the livery and paid the man for his food and water and a good rubdown.
He had been on many long distance trips and this mount was his favorite and had been many miles with him and he’d come back and make sure he’d been properly taken care of.
He walked up the street a little ways and spotted a small grocery store that he’d missed and next to it a restaurant/hotel . But he kept walking and headed for the sheriffs office.
Opening the door he was greeted by a grizzly looking man and behind him a younger man and he greeted both and introduced himself.
“Hello, I’m looking for a few friends and wondered if their still here. I was with the wagon train that started this colony.” I’m Hayes Cooper and I’m looking for the minister and the gunslinger that were part of the wagon train when they arrived here.”
The grizzly man turned and said, “well, welcome sir to Paradise Valley, I’m the sheriff here just call me Walt and this here’s my deputy Albert.”
I see you’re a Texas Ranger, what brings you to paradise Valley? “
Oh, just riding thru this part of the country on my way up north and thought I’d stop thru and see how the settlers were faring.
I didn’t recognize anyone outside as I rode through.”
Well a lot of the population has moved outward to start farms of their own mostly just a few miles from town. We have a dairy and we just brought in the first crops of corn and wheat we’re getting ready for the winter.”
The indians have been around but haven’t caused any problems so far, we keep a guard up at night and during the day we just keep an eye out. Have you been to the hotel yet? We have rooms available and Katy’s food is excellent she makes the best steak.”
Cooper nodded and said his goodbyes and headed across the street to check out the hotel and as he did spotted a few kids playing on the street and walking up the street was the school teacher that he’d met when he’d been with the train and she’d told everyone about her past. He headed in her direction and as she spotted him she looked a bit surprised and didn’t veer away.
“Well, hello stranger, what brings you back to Paradise Valley?”
“Oh, just passing thru,” as Hayes Cooper looked her over and remembered her and the bluest eyes they seemed even bluer now.
He searched his memory and found that the time he’d spent before was nothing to the time he wanted to spend with her now and the visions he’d had of her from memory were nothing compared to the real person standing in front of him she smiled at him and he found himself feeling just like he did as a young boy in school with his first school boy crush.
Cooper turned towards the hotel, if you will wait for a while for me I’ve just got to get cleaned up. Can I treat you to dinner at the hotel in about 30 min.? “
Smiling again and turning away she replied softly,” ok, I’d like that.”
Hayes checked in the hotel and got his to his room and unpacked quickly the few things he kept in his bag and went to the bath.
Coming out some time later he felt like he’d just washed 2 years of trail dust off him and tossing his old things in the chair he hurriedly dressed and adjusted his hat after dusting it off.
He went back down the winding stairway and reentered the foyer area and glancing around he spotted her on a chair by the door. She stood and approached him. She walked gracefully towards him and almost seemed to float.
Dinner in the hotel restaurant wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind for a first time on a date with her and he hoped she liked the food. They talked of the time he’d been gone what all he’d seen and where all he’d been and his run-ins with the indians locally, of her teaching of the children and the time it had taken her to settle in with the town knowing that they know of her past but had been so welcoming and had made her feel at home from the start.
They ate and talked for a couple of hours and then he walked her across the street to where she was staying with two other teachers from the town.
As they reached the small house he opened the gate for her and followed her up the walk to the door. Turning she smiled and he took her hand softly “I hope to see you again” and smiling he turned and walked away. Only glancing back to find her eyes following his retreating to the street.  
Hayes turned away and headed for the church and in hopes of seeing the minister and a few friends he’d met on the trail.
Reaching the church he found the minister just coming out of the church and greeted him as he walked towards him.
“Hey there Cooper, you did make it back”, and grabbing his hand in a handshake and then a hug with a few slaps on each others backs they parted and stood apart and talked.
“Well, I see you made it back here and in one piece. We wondered if you’d come back here before winter set in or not.”
As you can see we’re settling in and we have the town set up for the winter, the crops we’ve brought in and the wheat we’ve gotten ready for the winter planting should get us through.”
They spoke for a while longer and then Cooper returned to the street and headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest and as he passed the school he heard a voice as soft as a nightengale and as haunting as a western wind blowing by. He stopped in his tracks to the tune of Amazing Grace and found himserlf mesmerized as she sang the words,”
“I once was lost but now am found was blind but now I see.” And as the voice wavered he heard in the words and song, her heart and slowly turned to steal silently away.

The next morning he exited the hotel and was coming up the street to find the sheriff as a tribe of Cherokee indians were entering the town. The people all scurried away and he could tell they were scared but the indians rode slowly and with purpose to the sheriff’s office.
Cooper followed along the walkway and saw the sheriff exit his office shot gun in his arms and a frown on his face.
Cooper joined him and the leader of the eight braves spoke, in his native tongue” We come in peace to speak to the whiteman of a great difficulty in our camps. Our people are ill and need the help of the white man and his strong medicine. We grow weaker and need your medicine man’s help to heal our people.
The sheriff looked at Cooper and Cooper looked at the brave and the sheriff spoke to Cooper. Do you know Cherokee?
Cooper interpretted and the sheriff paled and replied, “we have no medicine man and don’t know where we could help them. And they’re coming here puts our town at great risk.”
“They need to leave.”
Hayes looked at the sheriff and replied, “I know of one medicine woman in the area and she’s only a few steps away.”
The sheriff looked surprised and turning said “who?”
Hayes replied, “the school marm.” He knew her name, Rebecca, and didn’t want to seem too familiar with her.
Turning to the braves he told them what he knew and asked if he could go and talk with her and see if she would go with him to the indian camp to see if they could help the Cherokee.
The sheriff looked surprised and nodded and Hayes went to the schoolhouse to find her only to find the schoolhouse empty but he heard voices around the side and walked aroung the building and found her in a circle with the children telling them as story.
Her voice was soft and her blond hair gleamed in the sunlight as he heard her words
“Storytellers of long ago sat around campfires and told of adventures of life and death.
They spoke of places near and far and adventures few people living in normal towns could imagine. Tales of gunfighters, of land gained and lost, of history in the making and of loves over many eons. But thru it all the purpose of the storyteller was to help the people get thru the hard times and keep on striving for all they could and would dream of. For without our dreams life is in vain.”
His shadow stood over her suddenly and she leaned over to look up with her hand shielding her eyes.
“Mr. Cooper, What brings you to natures class room?”
He told her of the braves and their problem and that they needed her help she was the only person with a knowledge of medicine that he knew of in the town and would she come with him to the Cherokee camp?
She looked surprised, and turning to the children she excused the class and returned to Hayes and stood up in front of him.
“I would go and help them just give me a few minutes to gather my things”. And turning she walked towards the school while Cooper waited just inside the door.

She gathered a few things and went towards the street closing the schoolhouse door behind her and Hayes followed her to where the indian braves waited. He spoke to them in their language and explained to them the situation and that this woman was their medicine woman and that he would ride with her to their camp and see if they could help them.
The leader of the braves nodded his assent and he offered her a horse to ride while Hayes went to get his. Horse and his things from the hotel.
Mounting their horses the group took off into the street and Hayes rode along side Rebecca. They traveled for most of that day and just as the sun was setting the braves stopped and made camp. They were very considerate of the white people and made sure that the medicine woman
wanted for nothing. Hayes found himself smiling to himself at the woman riding beside him as he assessed her qualities. She looked soft as a rose petal but was as tough as nails and then some. The indian braves had pushed their journey hard that day but not once had she complained nor had she been demanding in any way of the braves or of him she rode silently but proudly and when they picked up the pace towards evening she only showed what a good rider she was and the braves muttered their assent in a kind way.
Camping for the evening they brought her dried venison and water from the stream as Hayes made a campfire and watched her movements in the camp to gather firewood to assist him.
And once as a snake slowly slithered across the ground in front of her she but uttered a muffled noise and paused as it slithered on by her.
She was no ordinary woman for sure. And he found her heart and spirit intriguing.Her eyes bluer than the ocean laughed when she was happy and as they talked on the trail he found out about her past and what had led her to wind up in that saloon where the men came to listen to her sing. He could understand why after hearing her that afternoon and though many people had looked down on her it had been the money she’d needed to get to where she was now. And it had been a honest living.

The last of the campfire was going out and Hayes settled into his blankets for the night and turning towards Rebecca said goodnight. Her eyes were closed and he realized she was asleep. She looked like a girl when her face was relaxed as it was now and he saw her snuggle into the blanket she used as a pillow.
He found his thoughts wondering what that would be like on his shoulder with his arms around her and holding her in his arms, her lips soft and pliant beneath his, shaking himself mentally he turned his head upward and sleep soon overcame him.
Meanwhile, as darkness settled over the valley and the group slept Rebecca slept and moved around in her slumber as a dream overtook her. It started with a mountain and a late evening as the sun was setting the sky was multicolored with reds and purples as the sun started to set and the moon arose and the light set off the valley. She didn’t know where she was but knew that she was here for a reason.
Behind her she heard movement in the shrubs and turned to see what it was, the bear came ambling towards her and she took a few steps backwards, suddenly to the left of her silently but steadily came a huge wolf he was gray in color and had silver tips to his fur. He came between her and the bear just as it stood up on its hind feet and started a loud growl. The wolf faced the bear and growled also and she thought they were going to fight but the bear suddenly stopped growling and turned and left the area ambling away as if nothing had ever happened. The wolf silently turned towards her and let out a howl that was bone chilling and she watched it slip silently back into the woods from where it came and she was alone again.

The next morning Rebecca was still thinking about the dream of the wolf and the bear and as she got ready to break camp she wondered what lay ahead and if she could help the Cherokee and what would happen if she couldn’t. The horses whinnied softly in the cool mountain air and Cooper saddled his and she watched him as she readied her own. As she had woke this morning and sat up she had spotted Cooper in the distance readying a campfire this morning and had wondered what kind of man he was. Honest and law abiding she knew but who was inside that man, was he gentle, kind, or someone that children could love was he a family man?

Asking herself that question was like comparing him to that wolf she’d dreamt of last night here and gone in a flash again and she wondered if the dream was trying to tell her something about Cooper.   She sat astride her horse and looked around the valley they were in, kind of like the one in her dream.
The braves took of in a westerly direction and she followed with Cooper at her side. They rode for a few miles and the trail was easy to follow from she supposed the indians had made the trail and she knew they weren’t far from the camp. Her insides churned and she found herself becoming nervous about the impending task she had to do. Cooper looked her way and smiled at her and she thought he had the prettiest blue eyes and beneath all that hair and beard she wondered if he thought of her in the way a man looked at a woman. But saw no sign of it in his eyes.
The trail was becoming more open and the group could see teepees ahead and soon she saw a few children and women sitting around a campfire and then they turned towards a few of the tents and started dismounting.
Not knowing what they were ill with was the hardest part and as she was led to the first tent she silently prayed for devine assistance. Inside the tent they entered was an older warrior and Cooper told her it was the chief. And that several other warriors and women were ill. The old chief had an ill look to him and his skin was burning hot and his speech was rambling and she could hear the rattle in his chest. All not good signs.  She turned to Cooper and handed him a bag with some herbs in it and told him to add it to a pot of water and when it had boiled for a time to bring it to her after it had started to cool. The next few hours were busy as she looked at the group that were ill and she hoped that what she saw didn’t catch any further and all she could do was treat the fever and try and figure out what the cause was. But nothing that she saw rang any bells. Other than they all had the same symptoms and had all come down ill about the same time.
And the more she tried to figure it out the more it confused her but the chiefs fever was down and he seemed to be resting a bit easier and the rattle in his chest was less so she must be doing something right. As she and Cooper treated the indians she saw the kind of man he was, strong and severe when he had to be but soft and kind to these ill indians and helpful and another thing she’d noticed caring and compassionate. Maybe because these were his people because he was half cherokee she’d heard the townspeople talk of him over the past six months .

The day was getting late and as she made a round of her patients she found them slightly improved and all their fevers down and their alertness starting to return. Most of the congestion in the chiefs chest was clearing and though weakly he’d managed to say a few words to Cooper.
She sat back down by the fire that Cooper had started for her and took a cleansing breath and looked around her. The village was quiet and the surrounding mountains and trees were still. Not a sound did she hear. She considered a bath in the river but didn’t want to go alone and she didn’t speak Cherokee and she wasn’t about to ask Cooper to interpretate for her. So thus she decided to go alone the sun was just starting to set and she had a little bit of time and turning towards the river she followed the trail leading down to it. The water looked so cool and inviting and she got out of her clothes quickly and sank into the waiting pool of water. Oh, so cool but it felt so good after two days of not bathing and sweating in the tents with the sick. She floated around slightly her feet just barely touching the bottom and washed her hair and then just relaxed under a small falls that she found under a rock.

Meanwhile Cooper had returned to camp after being out hunting for dinner and had managed to snare a couple of rabbits. Returning to camp and going to Rebecca’s tent and not finding her there or seeing her about camp a short time later alarmed him. He’d asked a few of the indian women but they only shook their shoulders or giggled at him. After a bit he was really getting alarmed and though all of Rebecca’s patients seemed to be improving he couldn’t imagine her leaving without him. He checked the corral and found her horse still there. Then thinking of where else she might be he found himself headed to the river and pond area where everyone bathed. Walking down the trail he hoped he meet her coming back up the trail but then he heard splashing noises and knew that wasn’t the case. He spotted her in the water spinning around and moving her arms thru the water. He didn’t want to look but God, she was beautiful and he found himself mesmerized as he watched her swim and dip about in the water like a fish at play. Her body was perfect and it glowed in the moonlight. He knew he couldn’t stay here for long that she wouldn’t eventually spot him and probably panic so he retreated back into the trees and hollered out behind him. “Ahoy in the water, Man on his way in!”
He heard her sharp intake and then her yell out, “no, this spot is occupied! so come back later.” She only hoped he couldn’t see her and she headed to the rock where her clothes were at.
Cooper smiled in spite of himself and knew sleeping beside her would be difficult this night with what he’d seen of her and the close proximity they slept to one another he didn’t want any indian braves giving her trouble and with her coloring and her hair the people were always touching her skin or her hair and he’d seen how a few of the braves looked at her. He’d fight for her if he had to but he hoped it wouldn’t come to that. He’d sat on the rock waiting for her for a few minutes and she came down the trail.
“I thought I told you to to not leave camp without me.” He stood sternly in front of her and she stood dripping wet in front of him.
“Well, you weren’t here and I needed a bath and I didn’t think to ask you,” she lied and turning she started to saunter back up the trail. He reached out and took her arm, “don’t do this again. There are others around besides us and I don’t want to have to fight any braves for your virtue.”
She paled then her cheeks grew red at the implication and she looked at him and glared, “since when did you become my protector”?
“Since now” and he took her into his arms leaned over and kissed her softly at first and then with more demand and at first she froze in his embrace but he felt her relax and started returning his kiss with her own. Suddenly a noise behind them brought them back to reality and they parted, both breathing erratically and she took back off to camp in a hurry while he stood watching her go.

Chastizing himself as he started back never letting her get too far ahead he returned to camp and saw that she’d found the rabbits and was starting to get them ready to cook.
He walked past her and looking up at him she looked slightly confused but not angry. He kept walking and tried to calm his beating heart. He arrived at the chief’s tent a short time later and saw that he was greatly improved.. He sat and spoke to him for a short time and then returned to Rebecca’s tent and gathered fire wood and water for he fire. She sat a few feet away, looking towards him she said.
”I thank you for your concern for me and I didn’t realize there could have been a problem, just that I was hot and tired and smelly and I did consider asking you but I was embarrassed and since I don’t speak Cherokee and the women of this camp don’t speak english I couldn’t ask anyone to go with me”
Cooper looked at her and nodded his head and smiled at her.  “Well, we’ve been thru life and death together don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ever ask me for anything” and taking her hand he kissed it and turned and walked away.
Her eyes followed as he left and she wondered about this man, one minute he seemed so soft and calm and beneath that she sensed a coiled snake about to strike and it scared and intrigued her. But somehow she knew he’d never hurt her. She’d always be safe with him.
She continued to work on the rabbit and soon there was a good smell wafting in the air and she wondered where Cooper had gotten off too. This was just about done and she didn’t want the critters that visited the camp getting it like the raccoons they’d seen the other night as they sat quietly together at the camp fire.
Getting impatient she took it off the spit and placed it in a home made bowl made by the indians and covering it she started away from the camp to look for him.

Meanwhile, Cooper had gone to take a bath of his own and was coming back up the trail when he spotted her coming towards him. He waited in the trees and when she walked right past him he whistled out softly. Turning back she spotted him wet and his hair still dripping from the water and knew where he’d been.
Turning back towards camp and coming past him she only looked up at him as he followed behind her and she felt his eyes burning into her back
She headed back to her tent and sat down in front of it and tried her best to figure out what was happening here between Cooper and herself. Yes she was attracted to him and obviously it was mutual but she asked herself where to go from here just because there was an attraction and she’d thought about him since he’d been gone and was surprised when he’d come back to town and then he hauls her off to the indian village to save his people and he kisses her didn’t mean theirs was a life time commitment. Though she couldn’t think of anyone she’d like to share it with more. Her heart spoke but her head told her to be cautious, he was a lawman and what kind of life would that be for her? Could she love a lawman and not let it come between them? Wow, heavy thoughts.  He was walking towards her and sat down slightly across her from the fire. He sat silently for a few minutes, legs crossed staring into the fire.

When he spoke it was softly, “I think we should start back to Paradise Valley tommorrow. Our work here is done”. She nodded her agreement and neither voiced their true feelings or thoughts. She watched his eyes and knew if she said nothing then he wouldn’t either, but in her heart she knew how she felt and if he didn’t realize how she felt after all they had been through then she didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t about to throw herself at his feet. She prepared herself for bed and stopped at the front of the tent turning to say goodnight he still sat there staring into the fire. Looking up to meet her eyes she saw a flicker and then it was gone. She entered the tent and lay down to sleep.

During the night a norther blew in and snow went into the mountains and the wind blew cold and woke Cooper from a sound sleep when started falling on him. Looking around he realized his dilemma and went to the front of her tent. Peeling back the front and slipping inside to the warmth of the tent. She slept on her side and he could hear her breathing softly in her sleep. He lay down next to the side of the tent and rolled up in his blankets and went back to sleep, hoping she wouldn’t be too upset in the morning. He was just too tired to care.
Sometime in the night as they slept the two strangers sleeping did what two hearts with their guards down in slumber do and found one another and curled up together to keep warm as the storm blew itself out and around the camp.
And as Hayes slept he dreamt, of a white horse running across the valley amongst a field of flowers and the wind running through its mane the horse had its head into the wind and somewhere across the valley heard another horses whinney then another horse came running across the valley black in color and larger than she . A stallion running along side her as the sunset in their Paradise Valley.
He awoke with a start sometime early morning and realized that he lay beside Rebecca with her arm curled on his chest and her head slightly behind his her legs curled in his.
Without much thought he softly turned to look into her slumbering face and his heart skipped a beat. How could he leave her?  How could he go again and know that she would be with someone else. His heart rebelled and a hand traced away a wisp of hair from her face and she stirred slightly in her sleep. He knew it was playing with fire but couldn’t resist and kissed her lips softly and touched her face. She stirred and turned towards him and her eyes opened.
Rebecca was surprised but as she looked up into his face, not surprised, she knew they’d been building towards this moment and if they only had tonight then so be it. His eyes burnt into hers and he slowly bent down to kiss her again and this time she responded with all her heart and being. His arms came around her holding her softly and their lips continued to explore each other becoming more passionate and heated as the moments went on. He softly caressed her side with one hand and reaching her breast he caressed and slowly started a fire to burn in her and when she felt his lips on her neck and his hand that had found her soft belly as it moved lower she responded to his touch with a soft moan of acceptance. As the storm raged outside so did the fire between Rebecca and Cooper and they spent the night in each others arms with no regrets or sense of the morning coming faster with each hour. Just content to be in each others arms and knowing that each had their own hopes but not expecting anything.
Hayes slipped into her warmth for the last time before morning and felt the shudders of her body as her took her in the night riding the crest of passion that lovers do. Wondering if she realized it was more than his body that she took with her in the morning, for somewhere in the night she’d stolen his heart also.
Rebecca held Cooper in her arms as morning approached and knew that when he had to leave Paradise Valley that it would be heartbreaking to her but if she loved him, loved him when had those words stolen in?  Was it love, how could she be sure? She closed her eyes and tried to picture herself without him now and how life would be as the wife of a Texas Ranger should one day he ask her. So much to think about and consider. And as she thought about it she knew in her heart that beside him was where she belonged . How they would do it remained to be seen.

The snow intensified towards early morning and the two awoke to a winter wonderland Rebecca

crawled out first to heed natures call and as she walked across the camp wondered what Cooper

would say when he woke up. It was bitter cold and Rebecca hurried to find a spot and get back to

the tent and as she settled among a spot in the trees heard a noise to the left and behind her.

Turning to look to see what the noise was she spotted a wolf approaching steathily behind her

and started out of the area. Only to find herself surrounded by three other wolves snarling and

lunging at her. She did her best to get away but they formed an even tighter circle sround her.

Yelling out and trashing with her arms she tried to scare them away but they only retreated a few

steps and then came lunging at her legs.

She was starting to get scared and started screaming for help and saw some of the villagers

coming to her aide when one wolf lunged at her and knocking her to the ground he covered her

body with his and snarling lunged for her throat.

She felt skin ripping And felt herself losing consciousness. With all the noise and running past

their tent Cooper woke and tried to remember where he was then hearing a bloodcurdling scream

and realizing that Rebecca was gone he ran from the tent and saw a crowd gathering around

someone and got a sinking feeling in his stomach.

Reaching the group he parted them and found Rebecca lying motionless on the ground and the

Chief of the Cherokee leaning over her. As her looked at her and the blood on the ground around

her he felt his heart drop into the pit of his stomach.  Leaning down he took her up off the ground

and headed for the tent trying to stop the bleeding to her chest as he went. The gashes had just

missed her throat and as her layed her down on a pallet of blankets and examined the area that

was ripped wide open on her chest.

He started afire and put some herbs and torn strips of cloth into the pot. Watching it heat up and

checking the area for bleeding. It had to be sutured and he knew from the snow that there was no

getting her back to Paradise Valley to get it done. The pass would be blocked by snow for at least

a week, without further snow and there were no guarantees of that.

Cooper pulled on all his knowledge and did his best to keep the area from bleeding and watching

her chest rise and fall, knowing that she could die from this wound. He prayed for her life to his

indian gods and applied the poultices. The chief and a couple of indian squaws brought him food

and more herbs and kept him company for a short time as he did his best to clean the wound and

as he sterilized a needle and thread prayed that she didn’t wake up while he was suturing the

area. But mercifully she stayed asleep.

The wound was sutured an hour later and Cooper and the chief spoke softly and bandaged the area with more herbs and clean dressings. She stayed asleep with no sense of the worry and concern that the people around her in the tent and the warriors and the people outside the tent that waited for word of her and her progress. This woman had saved them and they felt helpless to do anything to help her except to build a fire outside the tent and keep a vigil offering up prayers to the forces of nature and life and death.

Cooper stayed at her side and did the things he felt would keep her comfortable blankets a roaring fire and changing the dressings every couple of hours. She moaned in her sleep every once in a while and though he wanted to give her something for the pain he knew she wasn’t awake enough yet.

The day wore on and between the chief and Cooper, a few of the indian women they took turns being at her side.

Cooper exited the tent a few hours later to stretch his legs and take a walk for a short distance. He had done all he could for her for now, the rest was up to the herbs and the gods of nature and as he exited he offered up another prayer to that god that he had been talking to all day.

Thinking back he chastized himself for bringing her here, for if he hadn’t this wouldn’t ever have happened.  But then he wouldn’t have had the time to get to know her as he had here. This was the woman he’d looked for all his life oh, there had been dalliances and girls for fun but he’d found life on the road lonely with no one to come home to when he made it in to town where he called home. An all but empty cabin in the middle of a stand of trees with no one to greet him and welcome him after six months on the trail. Until his job and the road took him out again to look for bad guys. He used to love it, but here lately the trail was getting cold in more ways than one.

And now here she was the one woman who could be the woman he needed and wanted to love and share the rest of his life with. Settle down and stop all the traveling and be the man she needed. He threw a bit of rock into a stand of trees and turned back to the trail that led to the tent. He knew that nothing else mattered now except getting her well so he could tell her what was in his heart.

A few days came and went and still she wasn’t responding, and her temperature was up. Her skin was burning to his touch and Cooper was starting to worry greatly for this woman. He just couldn’t bear to lose her. He’d tried everything he could think of and she didn’t seem to be improving. She had woke up once or twice but was out of her head with the fever and talked in her sleep of her mom and someone by the name of Sam.

He had no idea who they were to her but at time he felt that they were calling her away from him and that scared him even more. When she was ranting about him he felt embarrassed because as she spoke of the Ranger with the brown eyes that had stolen her heart and how she didn’t know what to do because she knew he’d leave her when the time came.

She slept deeper at those times and as he got her to take a small amount of fluids and herbs to bring down the temp and he thought it seemed to be helping. The wound was less swollen and he applied cooling cloths top under her arms and sponged her hot body until it was cooler.
Sometime in the night he fell asleep.

She slept and dreamt again, this time of the wolf on a mountain trotting slowly through the trees with the moon high over head. He sat down and extended his head towards the moon and let out  a howl that echoed across the valley.   In the dream the wolf became Cooper sitting by the fire stirring something in a pot and she realized she wasn’t dreaming but seeing him by the fire shirtless and stirring something in a pot. She tried to move but felt a sharp pain in her chest and moaned softly he looked up and noticed her.

“Hey your awake,” and smiling at her he offered her a drink. She took it and weakly attempted to rise as he leaned down next to her to help her. Looking down she realized she was shirtless and though slightly embarassed she knew he’d been treating her. Remembering the wolf she looked around and knew that she was safe.
“What happened to the wolf “she said softly?
“The hell with the wolf, woman, I’m just glad your better” and leaning down he kissed her tenderly. She smiled up at him “ With you as my doctor how could I be anything else?” she closed her eyes and sighed softly. “I tried to get away and get back to you but the wolves surrounded me and then the wolf in my dream howled and then there you were.”
“There’s a lot we have to say to one another my love, but for now just rest, I’m here with you always” and as sleep overtook her once again she felt him close to her and then the dark closed in.

A few days later she was sitting outside the tent and the snow was starting to disappear the people of the village came by to check on her and to lay gifts at her feet. Some spoke to her and though she didn’t understand what they said she felt their love and gratitude. Cooper never strayed very far from her and anything she needed was his loving duty for her. He laughed and smiled and occasionally she saw a tear that he so manly tried to hide from her.
Later in the day as he lovingly helped her back into the tent and sat her on the blanket of newly supplied firs he leaned in for a kiss taking her hand he swallowed hard and said, “you are the woman of my dreams my heart and the love I’ve looked all over for. I don’t think I could have lived if I’d lost you and I know that now isn’t the time but I have something to ask you.”

Rebecca looked into his eyes and both smiling and starting to cry listened as he said the words that made her heart sing.
“ I love you my wolf woman and would love to spend the rest of my life with you.  What I’m asking is for a mate and friend. What I’m asking you is will you marry me and make the lonely man in me whole and happy?”
Rebecca took his face in her hands, “how could I say no to you my love, for you too are my man of my dreams and the part of me that makes me feel complete.”
“Yes Cooper, I’d be proud to be your wife.”
Hugging kissing laughing crying they held each other for what seemed forever and they both Knew would be for eternity.
The wedding took place a few days later in Paradise Valley and though the townspeople were surprised they were happy for the couple and Rebecca’s friends threw her and Cooper a beautiful wedding in the church and the reception was fun and the whole town was up for most of the night.
As the two newlyweds stood thanking everyone and getting ready to spend the first day of the their married lives together they knew that this would always be a special place to them and their very own piece of Paradise, and Cooper felt he’d finally found that home he’d been looking for and the love of his life in Paradise Valley.